Master’s in Data Science program recognizes excellence in teaching, exceptional teaching assistants with inaugural awards

The Master’s in Data Science program introduced two awards during the 2020-21 academic year. These awards serve to recognize excellence in teaching and exceptional teaching assistants.

Awards were offered for both first-year and second-year courses in the program. Students had the opportunity to select a faculty member and a teaching assistant from their respective classes who they thought should be honored.

The Excellence in Teaching Award was given to both a first-year course faculty instructor and a second-year faculty instructor to recognize excellence in teaching and a commitment to student classroom learning and success.

The Exceptional TA Award was given to both a first-year course and second-year course teaching assistant to recognize exceptional support and dedication to peer education.

There were a number of submissions for each award, and many of the program’s faculty members received votes and recognition from students. The inaugural recipients and comments from their nominators are as follows:

Excellence in Teaching (first-year courses)

Zhongyue (John) Yang, assistant professor of chemistry

Jesse Spencer-Smith, adjunct professor of computer science

  • “Dr. Yang and Dr. Spencer-Smith are both extremely approachable and helpful.”
  • “Dr. Yang was so nice and genuinely care about not only our success in the course, but also us as people. He was a great professor and I would love to have him again!”
  • “Dr. Spencer-Smith is always willing to add extra office hours and workshops last minute, even during his personal time. He does a good job reviewing concepts as we go so that we remember old concepts and build upon them.”
  • “Both professors were very accessible and accommodating to the skill level of the students. I appreciated the pace and structure of the class.”

Excellence in Teaching (second-year courses)

Diego Mesa, assistant professor of the practice of computer science

  • “Dr. Mesa held us to a very high standard of excellence. He demands a lot from students but always matches or exceeds the effort he requires.”
  • “It is clear that Dr. Mesa is extremely passionate about the topic and does a good job of communicating this and the material to students to make sure we’re understanding it well.”
  • “Dr. Mesa is one of the best professors I’ve ever had. His teaching style motivated me to learn more about algorithms and to question more.”
  • “Dr. Mesa’s style of teaching and the effort he puts into preparing materials for class is remarkable.”
  • “Dr. Mesa is very passionate about the course material. We could tell that he went the extra mile to prepare lecture notes and workbooks each time. I hope he keeps it up!”

Exceptional TA Award (first-year courses)

Megan Murray

  • “Megan was the most passionate and helpful TA. She always opened office hours regularly and made sure students understood the concepts and assignments.”
  • “I owe Megan a life debt for her help with the probability homeworks. I seriously cannot overstate how crucial she was to my success in that course.”
  • “Megan is an absolute BEAST—a kind, intelligent, responsive one!”
  • “Megan is unbelievable. She is the sole reason I passed the statistics class.”

Exceptional TA Award (second-year courses)

Chiara DiGravio

  • “Chiara always made herself available to help students and was candid and thorough with her feedback.”
  • “Chiara was very helpful in the algorithms course. Her feedback to the assignments was great and she was always insightful.”
  • “Chiara was knowledgeable about the course material and gave good feedback on assignments. She also seemed genuinely interested in the success of the students.”

Each award winner was presented with a crystal plaque.